John D Radcliff, Specializing in Interactive Technology & Education!

New Media Ecologies?

An example of a modern day controversial musician is a guy who goes by the name of “Girl Talk”.  Gregg Gillis, is an American musician specializing in Mashups and digital sampling. His form of music has come under a lot of scrutiny since he produces mashup style remixes by taking a dozen or more unauthorized music samples from different songs to create a new song. Since he is only sampling each song, he states that he is not violating any copyright laws. Even though the musician, Girl Talk, has been quoted by the New York Times Magazine as “a lawsuit waiting to happen” this artist does cover himself legally by giving credit to the artists he copies. Also, he distributes his music freely at under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.

Pirate Radio is the transmission of illegal or unregulated radio transmissions. Pirate Radio has most notably been from the use of sea vessels or across borders of countries who do not regulate their radio transmissions. These form of broadcasts either do not transmit a station identification or transmit a power wattage which is not at a legal limit.

The artist, Girl Talk, has creatively come up with a new type of music in the form of a mashup and now has legally been able to get away with not being prosecuted due to the way he is distributing and composing his music. Pirate Radio on the other hand clearly violates radio transmission laws and tries to skirt around it by broadcasting in countries or in open waters were the law has no reach. The way “Girl Talk” has come up with a new way of making and distributing his music makes him a new kind of radio pirate by creating a controversy over the legal creation and usage of his music.

I like what Matthew Fuller states in his book Media Ecology on Page 41 which is, “Standard formation and nonstandard uses create a recursive cycle that is always ongoing but never entirely predictable.”
This quote from Fuller clearly shows how media can take different forms and be used in non standard ways like music mashups or illegal radio transmissions. Media is always changing and never predictable as in the case of Girl Talk. It is a unique transformation in media to see someone mashup music, create a controversy, and stay legal unlike radio pirates who clearly violate transmission laws.

Another example of this controversy is the ability to download free applications from the internet (e.g. Audio Hijack Pro and Sound Tap) and use these applications to record professional musicians music from YouTube. This is a fairly new technique that most people do not know about which means people can get there music for free from YouTube without having to pay for it. What about if more and more people new about this technique? Would this create a new controversy and would it be legal since people are just using this captured music for their own personal use?

Also, what other types of radio or music pirates will develop as technology in society continues to evolve? Will technology continue to push the legal boundaries of most countries to the point of making illegal transmissions legal?

3 replies to this post
  1. I unfortunately did not understand the book to the point that I could make an informed comment on it. The discussion in class helped me grasp some concepts, but I definitely need to read the book again to comprehend the points the author makes in it.

  2. Girl Talk is the central focus of the documentary “Rip: A Remix Manifesto.” Maybe you’ve seen it? The documentary poses a lot of the same questions of ownership and copyright law as you do here in your post.

    It’s difficult to think of a world without intellectual property, but it does seem where we are headed. New age pirate radio programs are popping up everywhere: Napster claims the captain spot. In the documentary, Lawrence Lessig says that if we don’t change, we are calling an entire generation criminals.

    It’s interesting to me to think about how the new systems of file sharing are creating a generation of artists who are calling themselves “authentic.” The indie rock bands that have created their own labels aren’t making music for hight profits (which major record companies could have provided), and bands like Radiohead and Girl Talk have taken steps to make their music free. These artists aren’t making music for the financial return, which seems to make their intentions more honorable in the artistic community: They aren’t “selling out.”

    It’s funny to watch this juxtaposition played out as Metallica sues the pants off everyone and their grandmothers for copyright infringement.

    If our society evolves in accordance with the indie artists and free music fans, there wont anything for pirates to pirate. That might be a more interesting scenario than imagining what new technologies will emerge in attempts to “steal” music.

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